So songwriting is a bit like fishing – you need a hook, a line and a sinker to ‘catch’ fans for the song. Let’s discuss.
First, hook. A hook is a catchy piece of music, a tune that is memorable and easily sticks in the mind. It is similar to the motif and leitmotif, in that it is a self-contained musical idea that identifies the song and gives it its hit quality.
The hook is often found in the chorus of the song, and is frequently repeated throughout partly to aid memory, and partly because the hook is pleasing to the ear, used to create aesthetic value for the song. Examples include the instrumental introduction to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, the guitar riff for Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple (both examples of hooks that are not in the chorus), the catchy section of Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping (“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”), or the guitar solo of the Eagles’ Hotel California (almost universally popular, but for reasons which remain unknown to me, a piece of music which has never appealed to me in any way, shape or form). Although puritanical musicologists would totally disagree with me, the four opening bars of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik are also a great example of a hook.
I always tell songwriting students, no matter what your style of music is, from avant garde jazz to House to heavy metal, if it’s a crowd-pleaser you’re after, to create a radio-friendly hit, your song should always have a hook in it.
The ability to create catchy hooks, it can be argued, is based on creativity – but creativity is a talent that is based on skill. In other words, it can be acquired through desire and hard work.
Read the next blog for line and sinker.